Toxins to be aware of at Christmas

This is a health series article supplied to you by our Pet Health Helpline’s veterinary nurses. Pet Health Helpline 03333 321 947 is a service you, as an Agria customer, can take advantage of as a first port of call in times of worry for your pet.

We all want what’s best for our beloved pets, particularly at Christmas time and we want to protect them from harm wherever possible, but sometimes accidents happen. Christmas involves lots of potential poisoning risks for your pet and it is one of the most common reasons owners call the Pet Health Helpline. As with most things prevention is better than cure. Being aware of food and products that are toxic to your pet and keeping them out of their reach is key. There are many resources but if you are in any doubt, call the Pet Health Helpline 03333 321 947 and talk to one of our registered veterinary nurses about it.


Veterinary Nurse Carolanne says that the most common calls we receive from pet owners reporting cases of toxicity over Christmas are:

Chocolate – There is usually a lot of this flying about at Christmas. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine that the human body can process but dogs and cats cannot. There are some types of chocolate that are more harmful than others so the general rule is to keep ALL chocolate out of reach of your pets. If in doubt contact the nurses on the Pet Health Helpline who can work out if your pet has had a “toxic dose”.

Hangover Cures – If you’ve over indulged you may have painkillers laying around. Over the counter human medicine such as ibuprofen can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, stomach ulcers and kidney failure in dogs.


Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince piesGrapes, raisins, sultanas and currants, these fruits can cause kidney failure in dogs but the process is not fully understood, some dogs can eat a huge amount and have no toxic affect, whereas one small grape could seriously harm another dog.

Lilies – You may be lucky enough to be given a bunch of lilies at Christmas, but the whole of this plant is toxic to cats, the pollen is particularly dangerous. Some cats brush against the flower then groom themselves, this causes the cat to ingest the pollen and they can quickly show symptoms of kidney failure.

Other food that you may have in the house at Christmas time that you should never feed your pets include: Macadamia nuts, blue cheese, onions or any of the onion family and turkey bones can all have nasty effects.

Other less seasonal things to look out for:

Common Toad – this species is found all over Britain and it secretes a coating that is toxic to dogs and cats when ingested.

Slugs and snails – if eaten can transmit Lungworm. Adult lungworms live in the heart and the major blood vessels supplying the lungs of dogs and cats, they can cause potentially serious problems.

Mouse and rat poison – some of these can stop blood clotting internally. Symptoms of this don’t show for a few days so making sure your pet doesn’t encounter these in the first place is very important.

Permethrin – this is an insecticide that is found in dog flea treatments but is highly toxic to cats. Even the correct dose for a very small dog is enough to kill a cat!


Pet Health Helpline Vet Nurse Carolanne says “Most owners don’t realise there are many seemingly harmless items that are potentially poisonous to their pets”.  If you see your pet eat something they shouldn’t, then contact the Pet Health Helpline as soon as possible. The veterinary nurse can discuss cases of toxicity and advise you contact your vet if necessary.

Pet Health Helpline 03333 321 947 should be used as a first port of call if you are worried and they will recommend if you need to go to the vets or not, the service is not intended to be used in place of going to your vet and if you are very concerned about your pet do not hesitate in going to your vet.